October 5, 2013 6:45 AM
St. George, Utah
St. George, Utah
Written by Owen:
To say I have been looking forward to this trip would be a HUGE understatement. I have prepared for, trained for, and anticipated this trip more than anything in my life. I will start with some history:
Immediately after I graduated from high school, back in 1993, I moved out on my own in Northern Utah. My dad moved down to St. George to retire. A year and a half later I had managed to get myself in a financial mess, so I moved back in with my dad down in St. George. He trained for, and ran the St. George marathon each year (Washington County residents have a guaranteed entry into the race, everyone else has to try to win a highly coveted spot via the lottery.) I remember helping him with his long runs by driving him up Snow Canyon, dropping him off, then driving down a few miles to hand him water, then driving further down, etc. He asked me to train with him, but I didn't even consider it. I thought running that far was just crazy.
I would give ANYTHING to have that opportunity back, as he died just a few months after Malissa and I got married in 2000. During a training run down the marathon route a month before the 2000 St. George Marathon, he had a heart attack and died. It would have been his sixth consecutive St. George Marathon. He even qualified for the Boston Marathon a few times, but never ran it.
Once I decided to run my first marathon in 2011, I always dreamed of the day that I'd get to run the St. George Marathon. I also dreamed of qualifying for Boston on the same course as my dad, and on the course that ultimately took his life. So when I entered the lottery in 2013, I promised myself if I got in, that I would train as hard as humanly possible: watch my diet, lose weight to get to my ideal running weight, and QUALIFY FOR BOSTON in St. George. What do you know, I got in!
After the Hatfield and McCoy Marathon in June, I took a break from running marathons so I could devote 100% of my focus on training and preparing my body for the St. George marathon. I had a little less than four months before race day. My training went perfectly, no injuries. I chose a more aggressive training plan, running 50-65 miles per week, with long runs topping out at 23 miles. I watched what I ate, logging calories religiously, and got down to my goal weight of 175 pounds just in time for the race. Without exaggeration, there was not a waking hour for four months that I did not think of this race.
My friends and family came through BIG TIME for me also. I was overwhelmed with the support I received this weekend.
Malissa's mom (Danell), Danell's husband (Angel), and Malissa's aunt (Freda) drove up from Southern California. We had so much fun hanging out the entire weekend with them. Angel was a very dedicated photographer the entire weekend. His work is a priceless gift. I will forever cherish the pictures he took and the video he made for us. See the video at the bottom of this blog.
My sisters (Shalila and Lisa), along with their husbands (Whitey and Gary), my nephew (Tyler), his wife (Lisa), and their daughter (Oakley), all drove down from Idaho. I hadn't seen them since 2011 at the Park City Half-Marathon. I hadn't seen Tyler in even longer, and had never met his wife Lisa, nor daughter Oakley. We got to spend a lot of time together. I will forever remember and appreciate their support. When we hugged at the finish line and were all where our dad had crossed that very same finish line at the very same spot so many times, the feeling was indescribable. Also, Shalila and Lisa’s Mom and her husband, who live in St. George, came to the finish line to cheer me on.
Our friends, the Vigils (Corey, Tracey, Darian, and Sydney) made the drive down from Northern Utah. We picked up right where we left off years ago as if no time had passed. We hung out at the pool, talked for hours and just had a blast. I had a plan for Malissa to be at multiple spots along the marathon course to support me and give me Gatorade and Gu. The night before the race, I decided that would be impossible due to the timing and Corey volunteered to wake extra early so he could support me at mile 16. That was such an enormous help, both to me and Malissa so that she could rest assured that she could make the finish after handing me my supplies just before mile 7.
Our friends, Jason and Aimee Fass, also made the trip down with their daughter, Malya, and their dog Prince. It was so much fun hanging out with them. They are really great friends.
Malissa’s friend, Britney, could not make the trip down to St. George, but met us at the airport on Thursday in Salt Lake City. We had a four hour layover before getting on our plane to Las Vegas. She came and picked us up at the airport and we had lunch. My friend, Steve did the same and we had a great visit.
Also, a very special THANK YOU to our friends the Alves’, who volunteered to take in our dog (Graycie), check on our cat (Sylvester), drive us to, and pick us up from the airport. You guys are amazing friends.
So thank you to all of you that I’ve mentioned by name, and the countless of others that supported me from afar via Facebook and phone calls. Now that I’ve got the back story and the thank you’s, I’ll describe my weekend chronologically:
Thursday, October 3, 2013:
We woke up at 5:00 AM, Lynne picked us up at our house, and drove us to the airport. Going through security is AWESOME when you have kids. They grabbed us out of line and walked us right up to the normal metal detector (not the full body scanner). We walked right through it and were on our way.
Britney and Steve picked us up in Salt Lake City and we had a great lunch at the Red Iguana, which is a great little Mexican Restaurant very close to the airport. They took us back to the airport, we breezed right through security in under five minutes, so we still had over an hour to kill. While we were waiting, we saw Dolvett, one of the trainers from our favorite show, “The Biggest Loser”. He was very nice when I asked for a picture. That was pretty cool.
|The kids with Dolvett from "The Biggest Loser"|
The time came to board the plane, but it was delayed, as they were doing some maintenance to the plane. It turns out a cooling fan needed replacing so our 4.5 hour layover turned in to a 6 hour layover. We finally boarded and were in Las Vegas before we knew it.
Once we were in Las Vegas, we were surprised that Aunt Freda had made the trip. She even met us at the airport, even though we were getting a rental car and staying in the same hotel as Danell and Angel. That was fun.
I always go the cheapest route on stuff, and sometimes that bites me. I booked my rental car through Expedia, and a company called “Fox Rental Cars” was cheaper by a few bucks so I chose them. The rental cars at the airport in Las Vegas are not in Las Vegas, so everyone has to board a shuttle for a quick trip a few miles from the airport. Fox Rental Cars, however, is not at that location, so you have to get on another shuttle for another quick trip (now we’re almost in Henderson) to pick up your car. Oh well.
We spent the night at Circus Circus Hotel and Casino, which was my favorite as a kid. This was also pretty special, because I have so many memories doing that with my dad. The kids enjoyed the midway, enjoyed seeing “Duo Resonance” that we had seen on “America’s Got Talent”.
|We were surprised by a Duo Resonance performance at Circus Circus|
|Teaching Michael the Parlay Card.|
Before bed we took a quick trip down the strip to see all of the lights. We had been awake close to 20 hours and were getting pretty tired, but had to go see the lights. They were really great.
Friday, October 4, 2013:
Michael and I woke up at 5am and ran my two mile shakeout run on the Las Vegas strip under all the lights. That was pretty cool!
We woke up and met the family for breakfast at Denny’s. We had a very enjoyable breakfast, talking, laughing, and eating. Toward the end of our breakfast, the waitress approached us holding a $20 bill. I couldn’t imagine why she was bringing us money. She handed it to us, along with a note, and said that a gentleman sitting next to us had asked her to give it to us after he left.
|It read: "It is refreshing to see a family like yours ... intact and having fun."|
|That just made my day, this trip was getting better and better.|
For lunch on Friday, just my family went to the “Brick Oven” in St. George. It was delicious! They had an all you can eat salad bar, and fresh pasta bar. We really enjoyed that.
Then we went to the Expo to pick up my bib. I wanted to attend the “first-timers” clinic. Its speaker was someone who had run the St. George marathon for something like 20 years in a row. He was a very entertaining speaker who talked about all of the things that made the St. George Marathon unique. I was really glad I went and learned a lot, including how important it was to take the first half easy, because of the way the hills played out. I was really glad I did, and ran significant negative splits because of it. After his presentation, the speaker opened up the floor for questions. I asked what the tear-off portion of our bib was for. I am always nervous tearing those off, but they are never needed. Because I planned on wearing the bib on my shorts, I wanted it as small as possible. He said he didn’t know what they were for, so that night I tore mine off and threw it away. More on that in a bit…
After that we met my sisters up at the exact spot where my dad passed away. We erected a temporary memorial that I would pass the next morning during the marathon. I can’t explain the emotions I was feeling while building the memorial, or the next day while running by it. It was at mile 19 of the marathon, and really gave me a boost. People running next to me asked if I was OK, because I was audibly emotional. I grunted that I was fine, and turned on the jets to prove it!
After building the memorial, we had to run to the spaghetti dinner. It was delicious and we had a great time talking, laughing, and planning our day the next morning.
Back at the hotel, we did some more last second planning, and just hung out a while. Corey, Tracey, and their girls hung out in our hotel room, and we talked longer than I probably should have, but I was glad. It had been a long time since I had seen them so it was fun. Plus, Corey is an experienced marathon/ultra-marathon runner, so it was good to bounce strategy ideas around.
After everyone left the hotel, I got all my stuff ready for my 3:00 AM alarm. This marathon is a point-to-point race, so all 7,500 runners have to ride buses up the canyon to the start. Because of this, they offer incentives, via a drawing, to the runners that board the first 30 buses. I wanted in on that, so I set my alarm in order to make it there at 4:00 AM. It was 11:00 PM before I finally got to bed, in four hours my alarm would be going off!
Saturday, October 5, 2013: (Race Day)
I fell asleep immediately, but at 2:00 AM I woke, and could not fall back asleep. I played around on the computer for an hour or so, then got dressed. A few minutes before 4:00 AM I woke Malissa to take me to where the buses were loading, about a mile from our hotel.
I was on the very first bus. As we were boarding the bus, they asked for the stupid tear off portion of our bib that I had asked about, and thrown away the day before. It wasn't to gain entry on the bus, just to be entered in the drawing as our reward for boarding the early bus. So I got up that early for nothing, and sat in the cold at the start for an hour extra, for nothing. Oh well, I couldn't sleep anyway.
The bus ride to the start was pretty uneventful. I choked down a bagel (Sara Lee’s bagels are not my favorite, but it’s what was at Walmart), and ate a banana. It was pitch dark, so I couldn't see the course on the way up. We made it to the start at about 4:45 AM. The race was scheduled to start at 6:45 AM, so I had two hours to pass in the freezing cold.
It was a brisk 32° when we got up there. They had bonfires going, but I was worried about breathing in all that smoke right, and what that would do to my lungs right before a marathon, so I stayed away for a while. After about an hour, I was frozen stiff, couldn't feel my toes, and was shaking like crazy, so I got as close as I could to the fire. I was the first one up there, but now I was fighting to get within warming distance of the fires.
I had dressed pretty warm, and had even taken hand warmers (the kind you shake and they provide heat). My legs and feet were the problem though (kind of important in a marathon). I kept trying to wiggle my toes to get feeling back, but no luck. Finally, it was time to shed my clothes, turn in my drop bag, and get to the start. I did that all just in time, and was at the 3:15 Pace Team Leader by 6:45 AM. The race started about 5 minutes late, however.
For months I've been posting on Facebook about my goal to qualify for Boston at the same race my dad did. How 3:15 was my magic number for the 2015 Boston Marathon. With my huge group of supporters throughout the country and the huge group that were at the race, I did not want to fail. This race was too important. I did not want to have to say over and over to people how awesome everything was, if only I could have… So my focus on race morning was laser focused on those 53 splits I needed to hit (one every half-mile, plus the all-important 0.2 at the end.)
The St. George Marathon does almost everything PERFECT. I really mean that, they are amazing. Their organization and effort to ensure a perfect race day is second to none. By far, the best in 17 marathons I’ve completed. Other than an ugly race shirt this year, the only thing I can think of that they need to improve on, is the lack of corrals. They just use the honor system, which people do not honor. The first mile of my race was so incredibly frustrating. I lined up with the pace group of the time I planned on running. In the first mile, I passed 100’s of runners that were much, much slower than that. It was such a bottle neck.
I also had side stitches (stomach cramps) immediately upon starting. They literally started within 10 seconds of the start. I never get those, so it had to be because my body was frozen. They worked themselves out after about a half-mile without slowing me down, just caused some pain.
My other major problem at the start was my left foot. It felt like I had something underneath the insole of my left shoe. It was very uncomfortable, right around the middle of the foot. Nike has this stupid compartment in the left shoe that is designed for their Nike+ system, which is a device that communicates with your phone to count your footsteps. It’s really inaccurate and a really dumb thing when GPS watches are so much more accurate. Because I don’t use one, there is a “placeholder” that goes in that compartment that is really just a small piece of molded foam. I am always worried that is going to come out and cause problems during a race. I was certain it had. Because I was still in the first mile, it was WAY too crowded to stop and take it out, I would be trampled. I told myself I would take care of it after it thinned out. I kept shaking my foot in between strides. It felt like it was moving up closer to the front of my shoe. It got less and less annoying, so I thought I could deal with it. After a while, I could barely notice it at my toes. I decided to just deal with it. Come to find out, it was just that my socks were too bunched up from all the wiggling I did trying to keep my feet warm. The extra fabric just worked its way to the toes and caused discomfort, but no blisters, and no problems.
Malissa and the kids were going to be at Mile 6.7. I couldn't wait to see them. The first few miles blew by. By mile 6 I was ahead of pace by over a minute, which made the clocks on the course match up to my pace tattoo for my goal pace perfectly. I decided to use my watch for my current pace I am running, but not for the total time. I would use the clocks on the course and forget that I had that 1:30 padding caused by the time that it took me to reach the start (the gun vs. chip time difference).
I saw the kids holding their sign they had made the night before. It was bright green so I saw it from a half-mile away. The spectators were very crowded, so I never would have seen them without it. I saw my Gatorade bottle being held out for me and I grabbed it. I heard everyone screaming for me, but could not look long enough to make eye contact. I was dialed in, focused on my job at hand.
|These two photos were taken at almost the exact same spot, 18 years apart.|
After that I just kept focusing on my splits. I had made a custom tattoo on TazRunning.com that had my splits by the half-mile, so I just kept hitting goal after goal, taking in the amazing scenery, and enjoying every minute of it. Before I knew it I was ahead of the clocks on the course by 30 seconds or so.
I was still dialed in, still 30 seconds ahead of the clocks on the course, still just concentrating on the half-mile I was on. At mile 16.7 I saw Corey and his family. Again, I appreciated their support, but was still so focused on my job, I made very little eye contact, didn't say anything and just appreciated them being there and cheering for me.
At mile 19 I knew my dad’s memorial was coming up. The tears were flowing. I kept telling myself not to adjust your stride. Any change in stride can be catastrophic with my muscles at that point. I had a little private conversation with my dad, who was running along next to me, and just kept going.
I was still hitting my split times, however is was getting a little tougher. My pelvic issue that I've battled for a few months was causing some pain, but not really slowing me down. I kept telling myself not to think stuff like “only 3 miles left”, but to dial in to the half-mile I was currently on. It was AMAZING how well that worked. My watch was on auto-lap for half mile increments, so it would beep every half mile, which would also reset my current lap pace to the current half-mile. It was truly shocking how fast those beeps came.
At mile 24, we turned off of highway 18 for the first time and made our way through residential streets toward the finish line. At this point I was still ahead of the course clocks, plus I knew I had banked the 1.5 minutes. I knew I had it as long as I didn't have some muscle cramp up or something like that. So now my focus was less on my time and more on keeping my stride exactly the same.
In the past 6 months, you have no idea how many times I visualized this moment. It did not disappoint. I turned on to 300 South, knowing I only had 3.5 blocks left. I found my supporters and gave them a quick wave, but I still knew a bad cramp could end it still, so I focused on not breaking stride. I looked at the clock on the finish line. It read around 3:14:30 as I approached it. 3:15 was my cutoff, and it took me 1.5 minutes or so to reach the start, so I knew I had it, but I wanted the finish line clock to be sub 3:15. I heard him announce my name, and I crossed with the finish line clock reading 3:14:47, giving me an official time of 3:13:08. I DID IT!
|Immediately after I finished.|
After the race, we all hung out at a picnic table in the park where all the finish line festivities were going on. It was nice to have a comfortable spot to sit after a race, where I got to give everyone the details of my race. If there’s one thing I like doing almost as much as running marathons, it’s talking to people about them.
Then we decided we’d meet at Five Guys, my marathon day meal of choice, at noon for lunch. So we went back to the hotel where I got showered and then met everyone for a great meal and great times just relaxing with everyone.
Then we went for a short hike around a park in St. George and got some great shots.
For dinner on Saturday we ate at what used to be a Sonic, but they had turned it into a “Patio Grill” on Bluff St. in St. George. The Vigil family would be leaving that night, so we had a great meal, then said our goodbyes. It was hard saying goodbye because everyone, even the kids, had such a great time.
Sunday, October 6, 2013:
Sunday we had another great breakfast at Denny’s this time it was in St. George, right across the street from our hotel.
Lunch was at Dairy Queen where we had a good meal, then said our goodbyes to Shalila, Whitey, Lisa, Gary, Tyler, Lisa, and Oakley.
Dinner was at Mongolian BBQ at the outlet mall in St. George. Our waitress was really funny and we had a great time.
|Our waitress teaching Kyle how to eat rice with chopsticks.|
Monday, October 7, 2013:
This day consisted of nothing but travel. It was a crazy long day that was no fun, but we got home safely. We drove from St. George to Las Vegas, then flew from Vegas to Memphis, where we were originally scheduled for a 1.5 hour layover. About a month ago, they emailed us to say the layover would now need to be 3.5 hours. Then yesterday, there was a bad storm so the layover ended up being 4.5 hours and we didn’t get home until midnight ET.
By far this was the most fun I’ve ever had at a marathon, on a vacation, on a trip, in life, anything. It was AMAZING! Thank you to everyone that got to share this with me, I had a blast.
Here's a video that Angel made for us, it is wonderful and includes many more pictures than I cold post in this blog:
Video of me at the finish line:
The official finish line video can be found here: